The Baltimore Sun

Do whatever it takes to fund arts, schools

Whatever it takes. That's what I thought when I learned that the Maryland State Arts Council could be abolished and that small liberal arts colleges are on the brink of losing state funds in our budget crisis.

Whatever it takes to keep these funding sources intact is exactly what state legislators should do ("Tax plan changes urged," Nov. 1).

Gov. Martin O'Malley's "Cost of Delay" budget would abolish the Maryland State Arts Council and its $16 million budget, which would eliminate assistance to hundreds of local arts organizations and individual artists like me.

The governor's proposal would also put the Sellinger program in jeopardy. The Sellinger program provides state aid for the operating budgets of independent higher-education institutions like mine.

It's tough sometimes to convince people that what I do is important. But mostly I teach freshmen and sophomore undergraduate students how to write stories, poems and essays at the same college (Goucher College) from which I took my bachelor's degree.

I've never wanted fame or outsize fortune. All I want to do is share the good news about how the arts can make and change lives.

The arts sure changed my life. I can say I would be nothing if not for my studies in English, theater and dance at Goucher College and the training and support I got from the state's public arts programs.

This summer, Maryland was ranked as the richest state in the nation. Yet the state could lose two of the most important signs of its cultural wealth.

No art or education endeavor should be cut in the richest state in America.

Slot machines? No problem. Another cigarette tax? No problem.

It's a no-brainer to me. Any loss of any part of the state's vibrant public arts and independent education funding would diminish us all.

So I say: Whatever it takes.

Jonathan David Jackson


Gambling exploits the least fortunate

The Baltimore Board of Rabbis recently reiterated its strong opposition to legalizing slot machines.

Those who promote slots in Maryland seem to believe that money inserted into slot machines drops directly into government coffers, neat and clean ("O'Malley ties plan to fund tax break, voters' OK of slots," Oct. 31).

In reality, state-sponsored gambling would bring an increase in bankruptcy, family violence, theft, alcoholism and divorce - and all of this causes terrible social costs and very real financial costs to our society. Gambling causes a disproportionate flow of dollars away from those who can least afford the loss: low-income people. It is tantamount to government's picking the pockets of the poor.

We should not balance the state budget on the backs of the neediest members of society.

Rabbi Steve Schwartz

Rabbi Amy Scheinerman


The writers are, respectively, president and chairwoman of the public affairs committee of the Baltimore Board of Rabbis.

Why no talk of rise in tax on alcohol?

Why are we not looking at raising the state tax on alcohol ("Tax plan changes urged," Nov. 1)?

That tax has not been raised since the 1950s. Cigarette taxes, gasoline taxes, sales taxes and real estate taxes have all been raised several times since then.

So why are taxes on alcohol untouchable?

When we are threatened with budget cuts that would reduce services but a good source of revenue to help avoid such cuts is ignored, I have to wonder what is going on.

Perhaps The Sun can get our elected officials to explain themselves.

Diane Chatham


It's easy to ignore needs of children

Like Vincent DeMarco, I would like to see Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett support expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program to millions of children who don't have health care ("Choose the children over tobacco industry," letters, Oct. 23). However, in a societal and political culture like ours, I don't hold out much hope for Mr. Bartlett ever feeling he needs to change his vote.

Mr. Bartlett can vote against SCHIP expansion because in his district, it is unlikely that he will suffer any consequences from such a vote.

The day before Mr. DeMarco's letter appeared in The Sun, a column by Cynthia Tucker asked how congressional Republicans and the president could support the expansion of the Medicare program to cover the cost of drugs for the elderly but could not approve the expansion of SCHIP for working-class children ("Stance on SCHIP is cold-hearted and shortsighted," Opinion * Commentary, Oct. 22).

In my opinion the answer is obvious: The aged vote. But working-class children can't vote, and their parents often don't vote.

The voters in Mr. Bartlett's district are like most Americans. On health care - and for that matter, social safety in general for all Americans - the message from many of them is: I got mine and if you don't, that is your problem.

Joseph F. Costa


Westboro church abused speech right

Freedom of speech is a constitutional right. But the question in the Westboro Baptist Church case is: Have the church members abused that right ("Huge award in funeral lawsuit," Nov. 1)?

When men use the right of free speech to spread hatred of their fellow man - particularly those making the ultimate sacrifice to protect that right - haven't they abused the right?

It is our differences that have made us into the great nation of one that we are. There should be no room in America for those who would choose to use them to divide us.

The higher courts must uphold this damage award.

George Lucien Gregoire


For some time, the self-righteous, hate-mongering, bigoted Phelps family has been disguising itself as a Christian group - the Westboro Baptist Church.

One has to smile, therefore, at the divine sense of humor in having a jury see through the Phelps' masquerade on Halloween and hitting them with a $10.9 million civil judgment.

The Lord's trick; our treat.

Christopher Dreisbach


Let Westboro Baptist 'Choose Civility'

It was interesting to open the front page on Thursday and see an article about the verdict in the Westboro Baptist Church case ("Huge award in funeral lawsuit," Nov. 1) right next to an article about the "Choose Civility" project in Howard County ("Thanks for the civility," Nov. 1).

This lawsuit is a superb example of why the civility program is such a good idea.

But I suppose it hasn't reached Westboro's neighborhood in Topeka, Kan., yet.

Joy Mandel


Thank you for the article about the "Choose Civility" program and for putting it on the front page for all to see.

Civility is contagious.

Can someone please send Pastor Fred W. Phelps Sr. of the Westboro Baptist Church a "Choose Civility" magnet?

Colleen Hughes

Ellicott City

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